Rachel Kozlowski (Dyer Group) has been awarded the Dean’s Teaching Fellowship for the 2019-2020 academic year. Dean’s Teaching Fellowships are selected based on progress towards completing the Ph.D. degree as well as a strong commitment to teaching. This year, 12 students were awarded the fellowship, which provides financial support through a $19,000 stipend.
As a Dean’s Teaching Fellow, Rachel will be designing and teaching a section of CHEM-150: Structure and Properties as an instructor of record this coming fall. CHEM 150 is the first course in the Chemistry Unbound curriculum and focuses on starting students in their chemistry studies with an “atoms first” approach.
“Being awarded this teaching fellowship is an excellent opportunity for me, as my career goal is to be a professor at a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI),” says Rachel. “Professors at PUIs have a much greater emphasis placed on teaching, so while I will still have a small undergraduate research group, most of my job responsibilities will involve teaching students. Having the opportunity to be an instructor of record while still working towards my PhD degree is invaluable.”
Emory University was recently named as a recipient of a grant from The Association of American Universities for the improvement of undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. The grant is part of the AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, a project launched in 2011 to encourage STEM departments to maximize student engagement through effective teaching strategies. The AAU explains:
“These strategies include creating learning communities for STEM faculty members involved in reform efforts, establishing programs to train graduate students and undergraduate teaching assistants or peer advisors in active learning practices, renovating classrooms into collaborative learning spaces, and creating inclusive and welcoming learning environments for all students.”
The mission of this initiative aligns perfectly with Chemistry Unbound, our undergraduate curriculum, that has seen great success since its start in Fall 2017.
In the Fall of 2017, Emory’s Department of Chemistry overhauled its undergraduate curriculum to introduce a more interdisciplinary approach to teaching chemistry. The new course structure, named Chemistry Unbound, was designed to weave concepts of traditional chemistry disciplines together, giving students a more comprehensive foundation of the field.
This curriculum reform was described in “Chemistry Unbound: Designing a New Four-Year Undergraduate Curriculum”, written with contributions from Tracy L. McGill, Leah C. Williams, Douglas R. Mulford, Simon B. Blakey, Robert J. Harris, James T. Kindt, David G. Lynn, Patricia A. Marsteller, Frank E. McDonald, and Nichole L. Powell. The article, which was recently published in the Journal of Chemical Education, has been selected by the ACS as “Editors’ Choice”. This recognition highlights the value of the publication as a significant contribution to the global scientific community.
We are so proud of the success of Chemistry Unbound! Congratulations who everyone who contributed to such a wonderful accomplishment!
Emory Magazine recently ran a feature highlighting some of the innovative curriculum that makes Emory a national leader in liberal arts and science education. The feature mentioned Chemistry Unbound, the new undergraduate chemistry program, which is designed to allow a more cohesive understanding of chemistry through its interdisciplinary courses. From the article:
“The idea is that you’re not just learning the facts, but also learning the chemistry behind how the world works,” says Doug Mulford, a senior chemistry lecturer and director of undergraduate studies for Emory’s chemistry department. “You’re also seeing how to construct a scientific claim and use evidence and reason to explain your argument. That level of critical thinking transcends chemistry.”
Carli Kovel is a chemistry enthusiast through and through. She spends her time conducting research in an inorganic chemistry lab, but has found herself interested in a wide range of topics in chemistry. And while her passion for all things chemistry may be making it a bit difficult for her to decide on a future career path just yet, Carli’s widespread interests have also opened the door for her to explore several potential avenues.
Before deciding to come to Emory in 2014, Carli had considered other schools where she might pursue her undergraduate degree. After visiting the Emory campus and meeting with some faculty members in the chemistry department, her mind was pretty much made up. Her decision to come to Emory was only made easier after learning about all the research going on here. “There is such amazing and impactful research going on at Emory and I was eager to get involved,” says Carli. “I felt like there were so many opportunities where I could become immersed in amazing projects.”
When she enrolled in Dr. Tracy McGill’s General Chemistry 141 class, Carli became even more excited about the subject and declared a chemistry major. The more she learned about chemistry, the more passionate she became. Beyond just attending classes and completing coursework, Carli regularly attended office hours, where she was able to dive even deeper into the material and start asking more complex and thoughtful questions.
In fact, her experience in chemistry 141 class was so impactful, Carli went on to become a Chemistry Mentor for the course. As a Chemistry Mentor, Carli continued to attend the class and serve as a resource for the more junior students. By being available to answer questions and discuss complicated or confusing material, she could help other students find success in the course or even identify their own passion for chemistry. Now, even though the chemistry 141 class has been replaced by the new Chemistry Unbound curriculum, Carli continues to stay involved as a Chemistry Mentor. She feels as though the new course layout has improved the flow of the material and allows for a more fluid way of learning chemistry.
Not only does this role as chemistry mentor give her experience with leadership and teaching, it also helps her develop an even deeper understanding of the chemistry material, an advantage which has proved to be immensely useful in a research setting. Carli is now an undergraduate researcher in the lab of Dr. Cora Macbeth where she studies aerobic catechol oxidation, an important organic reaction. In industry, the oxidation of compounds can be notably harmful to the environment, so much research effort is currently going toward improving this process through the use of cheaper and safer catalysts. Carli focuses on using copper and cobalt, two transition metals whose ability to easily gain and lose electrons makes them particularly useful as redox catalysts.
During her time in the MacBeth lab, Carli has gained extensive training in the techniques of inorganic chemistry. She has spent time learning paramagnetic NMR and working in a nitrogen atmosphere glove box. “Carli is a wonderful scientist and researcher. She is driven, inquisitive and doesn’t back away from challenges in the laboratory,” says Dr. MacBeth. “She has been working on some particularly difficulty syntheses, with very air-sensitive species and she has done an outstanding job characterizing these reactive species.” Beyond developing a diverse arsenal of chemical techniques, Carli has also developed a more abstract way of thinking about science and an appreciation for scientific creativity through experimental design. Carli has found it interesting and helpful to see some of the concepts she learned in class translated to the laboratory setting and has even found herself applying the concepts of chemistry to other classes, from history to poetry.
Emory’s Department of Chemistry provided Carli with the opportunity to travel to Italy with the Summer Studies in Siena program. She spent six weeks overseas experiencing Italian culture while taking three courses to expand her chemistry knowledge. During her time in Italy, Carli learned about the history and culture of Rome, the chemistry of food and wine, and the research happening at the University of Siena. Her experiences ranged from visiting a vineyard to learn the process of wine making first-hand to synthesizing an artificial meniscus to be used to mimic the articular cartilage in the human knee! Carli loved her time studying abroad and considers it to be one of the best summers of her life. “It was amazing to be immersed in that culture!” says Carli.
In case coursework, mentoring, and research doesn’t keep Carli busy enough, she is also involved in several organizations at Emory. She currently serves as the Co-President of Hybrid Vigor, a student-run online interdisciplinary science magazine and as the Co-President of The Survivor Anthology, a literary magazine that collects poems, stories, and visual arts from survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Additionally, Carli serves as Treasurer of Emory Undergraduate Medical Review, a student-run medical research journal, and as a campus tour guide. As a tour guide, she enjoys introducing prospective students to the great things Emory has to offer. “I love telling people why I am passionate about Emory. I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences and I really want to share them with prospective students,” says Carli.
Even though Carli is confident in navigating her way around Emory’s campus, she is still on a mission to find her future career path. Being interested in several different topics within the field of chemistry has given her a lot to consider before choosing a direction, but has also given her the freedom to explore several different possibilities. “Everything I’ve done so far with the department, I’ve loved,” says Carli. “I just want to keep taking more classes and see where that leads.” With graduation not far off, Carli is excited about what her future holds.
Morgan Bair Vaughn (Dyer Group) has been awarded a Dean’s Teaching Fellowship for the 2017-2018 school year. The prestigious fellowship provides support to advanced students to allow them to design and teach a course as Instructor of Record while completing their dissertation. Morgan is using this opportunity to teach a section of CHEM 150: Structure and Properties. The course is the first in the core sequence of the new Chemistry Unbound curriculum and replaces “Gen Chem” or CHEM 142. CHEM 150 takes an integrated approach to teaching the chemical disciplines, giving students broad training in chemistry as the foundation of their studies. For instance, Structure and Properties incorporates aspects of Organic Chemistry, normally sequestered in its own course sequence later in the undergraduate career.
Morgan’s research in the Dyer Group focuses on enzymes via the unique method of temperature jump spectroscopy. “My research works to fill in the gaps in our knowledge to allow for the efficient development of new enzymes,” says Morgan. “A large portion of the scientific community focuses on determining the structure of enzymes and how the structure impacts function. While this work is enormously important, it doesn’t tell the full story. One major aspect that is often overlooked when examining structure-function relationships is that enzymes are dynamic molecules. This means that they physically move, bend, wiggle, and change shape during catalysis.”
The Emory Report features a story on chemistry’s new undergraduate curriculum, Chemistry Unbound.
For the science dedicated to studying how properties interact and change, chemistry has been static for decades in how it is taught.
That changes this fall, as Emory College of Arts & Sciences positions itself as a leader in teaching undergraduates the “central science” that links biology, physics and more with a revamp of its entire undergraduate chemistry curriculum.
While some colleges have changed individual classes, Emory is the first major research university to completely overhaul how it teaches chemistry, from introductory courses to capstone senior seminars.